the Leimbach brothers, they’ve certainly paid their dues. After forming Lime Cordiale in 2009, Oli and Louis have steadily built a cult following, playing gig after gig, often to small numbers. Yet, their meteoric rise has seen an exponential uptick over the past few years, perhaps best evidenced by the fact they were the only act to have four songs under 40 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2019 (cop that Billie). The band’s second studio album, 2020’s 14 Steps to a Better You, comes at just the right time. With the title aimed as a parody of self-help books, Oli and Louis, along with James Jennings (drums), Felix Bornholdt (keyboard) and Nick Poloyineo (trombone, guitar) demonstrate a maturation and development for both their musical endeavours and within their personal lives. Covering topics about challenges with friends, romantic partners and the world as a whole, this album has something for everyone, such is its diversity.
The album opens on a bit of a dour, self-realisation note. Perhaps the album’s biggest ballad, the slow-moving That’s Life, opens with a phrase of ‘Oh Hello’ as though the boys are giving us an insight into their own mind. The slow-moving backing guitars reflect, and lyrics centre upon the principle that, in order to improve, you must first accept there’s an issue and, as cliché as it sounds ‘That’s Life’. The album flows through with self-criticisms about the boys’ failed relationships impacting upon their life beyond, such as Louis apologising to London after a sour end to a relationship inhibited his ability to enjoy his time in the great city, however, this isn’t just a personal sob story. 2019’s single Addicted to the Sunshine, the album’s fifth track provides criticism to Australia at large, with the boys alluding to the issue that everyone seems to acknowledge our country is one of the most beautiful, yet, most of its citizens are reckless to its preservation, and anyone who wants to protect it seems to be cut down (seriously though, why is it a bad thing to care about your surroundings, it doesn’t make sense to me but hopefully people begin to change).
The track that hit me the hardest was perhaps No Plans to Make Plans, with the lyrics and accompanying message targeting those who are simply ‘concentrating on climbing the ladder’ but really aren’t helping those around them. It’s a pretty heavy topic for two blokes that ‘didn’t really know what they were doing’ all those years ago, yet it delivers a strong subliminal message as to the fact that if you aren’t making someone else’s day better, what are you actually doing (hits you right between the eyes doesn’t it).
Whilst some of these topics may be critical and not feel all that great upon reflection, their bright, breezy delivery softens the blow just enough. The thing that surprised me most about this album was its diversity across genres. Whilst the album was recorded over two weeks on a farm and was produced by Dave Hammer (same as 2017’s Permanent Vacation), the boys appear to have pushed some boundaries and experimented with different sounds and effects. The ska-like delivery of vocals and off-beat musical rhythm in Screw Loose juxtaposed to the sunny, surf pop tune of On Our Own highlights just how talented these guys are (their mum is a classically trained musician and it shows). Elephant in the Room is possibly the biggest display of how far the band pushed their new sounds, making use of vocal distortion and being accompanied by a choppy, muddled up arrangement, drawing the listener into Oli’s self-reflective, heavy hearted vocals.
For those worried, fear not, the boys still remain true to their roots, with the catchy hooks we fell in love with over the years still appearing on tracks such as Robbery, Money and Inappropriate Behaviour.
It will be interesting to see which direction Lime Cordiale take from here, but for the time being, I think we can all enjoy the opportunity to take a lighthearted look at ourselves and each other and hopefully, we can all make some changes for the better. If you take one thing from the boys and this album, no matter what gets thrown your way through all of this mess, if you can just try to be a better you, you might surprise yourself and have some fun along the way.